Sunday, June 9, 2013

HW "Three For All" PD Program

I've casually mentioned our "Three For All" program for professional development to a few colleagues from other schools, and based on the questions asked about it, I thought it may be worth sharing to a wider audience.

We'll be starting our 1:1 laptop program next year in 7th grade, before rolling it out to 7-9 and 7-12 in the next two years, and to better prepare our faculty and staff to use the devices effectively, we contemplated all varieties of PD plans. Our school structure makes it difficult to offer blocked time for join PD, leaving it instead for faculty to do on their own. With that in mind, we contemplated plans that used words like "require" and "mandate" to make the importance of PD work clear, but because that approach didn't really capture our school's philosophy toward PD, for which we believe in autonomy and choice, nothing seemed right.

Our MS Head of School finally decided on one he called "Three For All", which asks all faculty (not just 7th-grade teachers) to complete 3 PD projects by the start of the next academic year on Aug. 27. In March, he revealed the program to the rest of the faculty using a video we put on YouTube, rather than through an email (which was very well received!). A single PD project could include almost anything, including reading a book and writing a review, watching a webinar or taking an online course, participating in a Tweetchat, attending a workshop or #coffeecue meeting, visiting a school, or even going to a conference. And if the conference offers multiple workshops, it could well count for three PD credits itself. We've created a document of suggested activities to encourage collaborative participation, but there were very few restrictions on the types of activities.

Because we want faculty doing the kind of work that they're interested and invested it, we also gave the option of requesting specific 1:1 tutorials or departmental workshops. If a teacher gave a workshop for others, that would count as a credit, since we want to encourage the formation of a support network within the school. But we also welcome departments to arrange for workshops led by experts they choose from outside the school in order to ensure that their PD time and work is valuable and most of all, to make it clear to our community that we support them in their "Three For All" activities.

PD work is recorded within a spreadsheet, and faculty are encouraged to share their work with the rest of the community on our faculty portal, where others can see what they've done and whether they found the project useful, while asking any questions about it.

Thus far, we all are quite happy with the results. In fact, in addition to the variety of work recorded, we've been pleasantly surprised at how many credits some faculty have already earned. By giving our community autonomy to select their own projects and trusting them to do the work responsibly, our level of participation is high. Moreover, more faculty are exchanging ideas with each other not only for "Three For All" opportunities but also for ideas to use in their classrooms next year. I'm still thinking through ways to facilitate face-to-face sharing (e.g. a "demo slam" or weekly coffee chats) and welcome any suggestions.

When we return to campus in the fall, our TIS team will lead an edcamp-like PD workshop, where we hope others will be willing to share what they learned over the summer. Most importantly, we hope that these sorts of discussions that the "Three For All" program has already sparked will continue to happen throughout next year and that we will continue to build a strong network of experts from within our faculty.

I welcome any questions or comments on the program, and I'm also curious to learn of other approaches to PD that other schools have found successful.